Monday, June 6, 2016

Our Hearts Are Restless

Writing in the opinion page of the Catholic Times a professor in the humanities department of a Catholic University  leads us on a journey of thought that she had in reading the book Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind  by Yuval Noah Harari.

She begins the article talking about her walks with her sister-in-law along the river bank of the Han River. In the evening, she sees many walking at  sunset with their dogs, and she wonders at times who is leading whom. You have Chihuahuas, Finish Spitz, Poodles walking with their owners, and she was struck with how the dogs have no problem in being attracted to other dogs of different breeds, much larger or smaller than themselves and enjoying each others' company. However, she doesn't recall in the same house where a dog has fallen in love with a cat or vice versa.

The book she is reading on Sapiens (homo sapiens) is one that a Christian may have much to criticize but she found something that she has overlooked in the past that was brought to her attention by the book.

We have the cognitive, agricultural and scientific revolutions  Sapiens has encountered, and Harari wonders whether our ancestors, the hunters and gathers, were happier than our own modern Sapiens. We have had more people who have died from suicide than all the deaths that we have had in wars from the beginning of history. What is the reason that we are now working more hours than the hunters and gathers in our ancestral line? Will our world of cyberspace and genetic engineering bring us more happiness or grief?  

What she liked about the book was the reason Sapiens could  overcome all the other hominids. It was because of Sapiens cognitive powers. In this section, he explains the difference between mating theory and replacement theory.

Sapiens did not live in harmony with the other hominids but in time showed antagonism and competed with  Neanderthals and Erectus (although there may have been interbreeding), they did not settle down with them but even were responsible for their reduced numbers and eventually extinction. We have no place in the planet today where we can find any remnant of where Sapiens and the hominids interbred and remained as a distinct tribe, or species.  We have overcome our different facial appearances, colors, cultures and religions, but we were not attracted to the non-Sapiens.

We are drawn to  God, we can't see,  understanding our history as  made in the image of God, and the attraction that he has put in us for himself is what keeps much of human kind looking for ways to fill our desire for him, by the way we live. St. Augustine expressed this feeling very succinctly and beautifully: our hearts are restless until they rest in you.

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